With the Gettysburg and Vicksburg 160ths behind us, I can’t help but think of an old movie/TV trope: a man and woman who have apparently just “done the deed” are now sitting up in bed, sheets pulled up modestly around them, and they each need a cigarette. The action is over, and everyone needs to relax for a minute.
The action in Gettysburg and Vicksburg is over. Maybe you’ve taken a minute to rest. The surrender of Port Hudson is coming up on July 9, so maybe you’re ready for another round. Or maybe you’re still pining for your last love, the one who has slipped out the door and won’t be back until next year. “Goodbye, Big G. Goodbye.”
If you still need a fix, let me suggest a return to the Summer of 1863 with a pair of books from the Emerging Civil War 10th Anniversary Series: The Summer of ’63: Gettysburg and The Summer of ’63: Vicksburg and Tullahoma.
(And as soon as I mentioned “Tullahoma” right there, some scorned love shouts, “See? You always forget me, mooning the way you do over Gettysburg and Vicksburg. I’m. Right. Here!”)
Our “ECW10” Series collects the best of the blog, some of our favorite past symposia talks, and even a podcast transcript or two, with some original content added in for extra coolness. Publisher Savas Beatie really wanted to celebrate ECW’s “best of.” We’re pretty proud of it.
These two books, in particular, were meant to be read in conversation with each other. After all, you can only appreciate the full ramifications of these three battles if you understand them in the context of each other. For that matter, you can’t fully appreciate why Tullahoma gets so overlooked unless you understand its context among the other two campaigns.
We had tried to do just a single volume that covered the Summer of 1863 but, as co-editor Dan Welch and I worked on it, we discovered we had too much good material to fit into a single book. We split it into two volumes (which, for Dan, was like suddenly discovering he was pregnant with twins—as a man).
Dan has worked seasonally at Gettysburg for years, so he had an excellent grasp on the material and really helped curate a great selection. He also has some neat pieces in the books (my favorite is a piece he wrote about the Federal retreat through Gettysburg on the afternoon of July 1).
I’m an eastern guy myself, and I grew up not far from Gettysburg, so I was shocked to discover that I had written a lot more about Vicksburg over the years than Gettysburg. What a surprise that was!
And we had a great stable of Tullahoma experts hidden in the wings, too, including Chris Kolakowski and Dave Powell, who have both written books on the campaign.
Each book is roughly chronologically organized, although neither tries to tell a comprehensive narrative account of the campaigns. Rather, the books serve up a neat hodge-podge of topics that, over the years, fascinated us as a community of historians. We hope the books’ intentionally eclectic nature makes them fun.
So, even if Gettysburg and Vicksburg have left you cold and lonely for another year (“and Tullahoma!” someone is yelling), you can extend the fun with some of ECW’s favorite stories and fresh perspectives on the Summer of ’63. Your cigarette break is over.
From Savas Beatie: